Commentary | Eliminating the breaking ball from the youth baseball is good for long-term health

August 27, 2013 

LLWS California Japan Baseball

Chula Vista, Calif., pitcher Grant Holman delivers against Tokyo, Japan, in the first inning of the Little League World Series Championship baseball game in South Williamsport, Pa., Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

GENE J. PUSKAR — AP

The Little League World Series ended Sunday with Japan defeating Chula Vista, Calif., in the championship game.

The International and American brackets produced some scorching pitching performances, but there's one major problem that the world witnessed.

And it isn't limited to the national or world stage. It happens all the way down to the local level.

That issue being the continued use of allowing youth players to throw breaking balls.

Not every league or coach permits their players to do so, but the breaking-ball pitch is allowed by some.

It needs to be outlawed as an illegal pitch.

Why?

Because players age 12 and younger don't have the development in their arms to toss breaking balls, whether they are curve balls or sliders, without causing the potential for some long-term damage.

Kids getting Tommy John surgery before they get to high school is a possibility that should make any parent cringe.

Little League took the initiative for protecting pitchers when they changed from the old innings limit rule that was prevalent in the 1990s to the pitch count rule, where players have a maximum number of pitches for a game that correlates to the

amount of rest required depending on their league age.

But that isn't enough as the snapping motion that causes stress on a pitcher's elbow when throwing breaking balls, no matter the technique, doesn't alleviate the reality that Tommy John surgery brings -- which is more and more likely with more games and time spent playing thanks to travel ball schedules that coincide with Little League seasons

Sure, Major League Baseball players have seen TJ plenty and recovered. Those guys are professional ballplayers, who have years of experience and matured, adult arms.

All Little Leaguers need to get the competitive edge from the mound isn't a breaking ball to pair with a killer fastball. Rather, it's a change-up. The difference in speed throws off a hitter's timing, and that's all you need at the Little League level.

Football honors

The 2013 IMG All-Madden football team was recently announced, and several local high school players made the cut.

Palmetto senior running back Josh Hicks, who is bound for Rutgers, made the first-team offense alongside Bayshore senior quarterback Wesley Jackson.

Jackson was tabbed as a wide receiver on the first team, and was one of two Bruins picked. The other was offensive lineman T.C. Williamson.

Meanwhile, Bradenton native Ryan Hintze represented Braden River as a first-team defense selection.

The defensive lineman joined teammate Marcus Balliette, of Avondale, Va., on the squad.

Balliette, a linebacker, rounded out the four locals picked as first-team members.

Manatee's Juwaan Jenkins, a wide receiver, garnered honorable mention honors from the camp held in late July and directed by former Florida State University Heisman Trophy winner and NFL quarterback Chris Weinke.

Heavy lifting

Lakewood Ranch High's Riley Bohan snagged three silver medals in weightlifting at the recent Pan American Sub-15 Championships in Shreveport, La.

Competing in the 63 kilogram women's weight class (just under 139 pounds), Bohan's best snatch attempt of 53 kilograms (just under 117 pounds) and her best clean and jerk attempt of 70 kilograms (roughly 154 pounds) produced a pair of silvers.

The total, 123 kilograms (roughly 271 pounds), earned Bohan another silver medal and accomplished the feat against a weightlifter from Mexico and another one from Puerto Rico.

The Pan American games are for athletes from North and South America.

Top soccer rookie

Bradenton's Erika Tymrak, a University of Florida and IMG Academy alum, was named the National Women's Soccer League's Rookie of the Year recently.

Tymrak gobbled up the honors after scoring six goals and dishing out four assists in 21 appearances (16 starts) for FC Kansas City.

The midfielder's performance justified Kansas City's decision to make her the 11th overall selection in the inaugural NWSL Draft last January.

Jason Dill, sports reporter, can be reached at 745-7017 or via email at jdill@bradenton.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jason_Dill.

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